STEVE PODCAST GUEST: Blending the Art+Science of Human Resources

In this post, I discuss the importance of leadership, alignment, and engagement in the manufacturing industry. I emphasize that the biggest mistake employers make is hiring random people rather than the right people, and that a strong culture attracts the right employees and motivates them to perform at their best. I also highlight the importance of identifying the signs of disengagement early on and addressing them before it's too late, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of work buddies in the workplace. I conclude that happiness is the key factor driving employee productivity, engagement, and retention, and that aligning employees with the company's vision and values and connecting them with each other and the mission is crucial for retaining them.

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The Significance of Leadership and Alignment for Engaged Manufacturing Employees

I’m thrilled to share my thoughts on the importance of leadership in the manufacturing industry. As someone who has spent most of his career working in different actuarial roles in Fortune 500 companies, I know firsthand the significance of inspiring and motivating employees to reach their full potential. Today, I am a coach and speaker, helping businesses inspire their employees and create a positive work environment.

When I recently spoke with Laurie and Sandri, we talked about the challenges employers face in finding and retaining the right people for their organization. Often, employers are so focused on getting bodies in the door that they may overlook the importance of leadership and employee engagement. I emphasized that the biggest mistake employers make is hiring random people rather than the right people. A strong culture attracts the right employees and motivates them to perform at their best.

In the manufacturing industry, employee motivation and engagement are crucial. When employees feel disconnected from the mission and vision of the organization, they disengage, leading to burnout and low productivity. Therefore, it’s vital to focus on alignment and connection in the workplace. Leaders should strive to hire people who are aligned with the organization’s values and cultivate alignment and connection in their daily work.

As a leader, it’s crucial to connect an employee’s job to a societal imperative. By doing so, you help employees understand how their work connects to something bigger than themselves. It’s essential, especially for younger generations, who want to make an impact and feel like they are part of something significant.

Connection is also crucial in the workplace. Leaders should help employees find others at their level or different levels who share the same perspective on the work they’re doing. Being friendly and cultivating a sense of belonging is essential. People want to feel like they belong to a mutually caring group of people.

Retaining Your Employees

As a leader, I believe it’s crucial to identify the signs of disengagement early on and address them before it’s too late. But even better than that, let’s focus on how we can keep our employees motivated and engaged in the first place.

First, it’s important to understand what disengagement looks like. Signs can include a decrease in productivity, frequent absences, tardiness, and disinterest in after-hours meetings. If you notice these trends in your employees, it’s essential to have an honest conversation with them to understand what’s going on. This way, you can identify what motivates your employees and find a solution to re-engage them.

One of the most critical elements in keeping employees engaged is to show that you care for them. As a leader, I believe that it’s essential to care for your employees, support them professionally and personally, and make them feel valued. When you care for your employees, they’re more likely to feel invested in their work and motivated to stay engaged.

Knowing your employees is also key to keeping them engaged. Different age groups have different motivators. Millennials, for example, want to feel like they belong and that they’re making a difference. Middle-aged employees may start re-evaluating their lives and questioning their decisions. Understanding these trends can help you inform your conversations with employees and support them in their professional and personal lives.

Onboarding is an essential part of keeping employees engaged. If the onboarding experience doesn’t match the excitement that employees feel when they join your organization, they may become disenchanted. Onboarding is an opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s culture, vision, and values to new employees. It’s an opportunity to make them feel like they made the right decision by joining your company.

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Work Buddies in the Workplace

Now, let’s talk about work buddies. I believe that having a work buddy can be a valuable resource for new employees. Work buddies can offer guidance on navigating the office, finding the best coffee shop, or even troubleshooting the dreaded coffee machine. Work buddies can also offer emotional support and a sense of camaraderie, making employees feel more connected and invested in their work.

However, there are also pitfalls to be aware of. Work buddies need to be chosen carefully, as a mismatched pair could lead to frustration or conflict. Work buddies also shouldn’t be forced upon employees. Instead, it should be an organic process that allows employees to connect with someone they genuinely get along with.

Lastly, it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism with work buddies. They shouldn’t become too chummy to the point where it affects their work or the perception of their work by others. Overall, I believe that work buddies can be an excellent way to foster a more connected and supportive work environment, but it’s crucial to approach it carefully and thoughtfully.

The Key to Employee Productivity and Retention

Throwing money at employees isn’t the key to productivity and retention. I worked on a massive project analyzing the data of a global company with 150,000 employees to understand what motivates productivity, engagement, and retention. And surprisingly, we found that happiness is the key factor driving these metrics.

Now, you might be thinking, what does happiness mean in this context? Well, it’s all about alignment and connection. When employees feel aligned with the company’s vision and values and connected with their colleagues and the mission, they are happier and more productive. On the other hand, employees who are solely motivated by money, bonuses, and benefits are not necessarily happier or more productive.

While salary and benefits are still important for attracting employees, they may not be as effective for retaining them. Instead, organizations should focus on aligning their employees with their vision and values and connecting them with each other and the mission. This way, they can retain employees without having to pay them as much as other organizations that are scrambling to keep their employees.

So, how can you create a culture of connection that goes beyond the mission statement? The key is to create a community of people who are excited about what your organization is doing in the world. This community can include people inside and outside the organization. By creating this community, you can engage potential candidates who are excited about your organization and its mission, even if they are not actively looking for a job.

To create this community, I suggest finding a rallying cry that resonates with people on an emotional level. For example, the Minnesota Vikings have a one-word school chant that doesn’t necessarily make sense, but it excites people and creates a sense of community. Similarly, organizations can create a rallying cry that connects with people emotionally and gets them excited about what the organization is doing.

Now, you might be wondering, why should you care about employee engagement and productivity? Well, the truth is that the average US office worker is productive for only 31% of their day. That’s a staggeringly low number. And while there may be more productivity on a production line, overall, as a group, we’re just not very productive. This lack of productivity has a significant impact on the bottom line of companies, as lost time equals lost revenue.

But it’s not just about lost revenue. Only 36% of employees are considered engaged in their jobs. This means that two-thirds of people are not engaged in their work. Some are actively disengaged, while others are just ambivalent. Either way, this lack of engagement has a significant impact on productivity and ultimately, the success of the company.

So, what can you do to improve employee engagement and productivity in your workplace? Start by understanding what drives engagement for your employees. What motivates them? What makes them feel valued? Then, create a culture that supports and encourages engagement. Make sure employees have the resources and tools they need to be successful and provide opportunities for growth and development.

How snowmobiles helped one company turn around its employee recruitment woes

One company that I worked with was a snowmobile parts manufacturer that was struggling to attract new employees due to low wages. Instead of continuing to offer the same pay rate and hoping for the best, the company decided to focus on its mission and the impact that it had on the wider community. By highlighting the joy that families experience when snowmobiling together, the company was able to build a sense of community around the activity and create an emotional connection to its products.

To further build its relationship with the snowmobiling community, the company started engaging with them online and sponsoring events. By positioning itself as a passionate advocate for the sport, it was able to attract a new type of employee – one who was invested in the company’s values and mission, rather than just looking for a paycheck.

To sweeten the deal, the company started offering incentives such as free vacations and even a snowmobile giveaway to long-standing employees. By making the financial incentives more relevant to the company’s mission, it was able to create a stronger sense of loyalty and retention among its employees.

Another example that I often cite is that of a brewery that advertised a job opening for someone to taste their beer and supply samples. By making the job posting fun and engaging, the company was able to generate interest from a wider pool of candidates who were attracted to the playful culture the company was promoting.

The takeaway from these examples is that companies need to get creative with their recruitment strategies and focus on the values and mission that make their business unique. By building a strong community around their products and engaging with potential employees in a meaningful way, companies can create a sense of purpose and excitement that is more enticing than a simple paycheck.

About The Author

Steve Fredlund Keynote Speaker

Steve Fredlund is The Safari Dude. As a professional actuary in human resources analytics, he uncovered surprising factors that enhance employee engagement, and work enjoyment; key elements for effectiveness, enhanced retention, productivity, and organizational success.

Minnesota to Rwanda, nonprofit to corporate, start-ups to Fortune 500 companies he brings to your event thirty years of leadership success. Steve’s personal safari mission is to help great leaders and their teams enjoy an epic safari by getting the right peeps in their jeeps and in the right seats

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